Secret spy tunnels and a strange enthusiasm for roundabouts—no, we’re not describing the latest blockbuster. These are just some of the things our nation’s capital is famous for!
Read on to learn all about the history, fun facts and local legends that Canberra is renowned for across the country and the world.
1. Yes, Canberra really is Australia’s capital
Canb-what? Ask any overseas traveller what the capital of Australia is, and they’ll probably say Sydney. So, why is Canberra the capital?
Well, in 1908, lawmakers and politicians couldn’t decide which of the major cities, Sydney or Melbourne, should be the capital. As a compromise, they decided to build a new city on a spot between the two, and Canberra was chosen.
But did you know climate also played an important role in this decision? A NSW Commissioner believed “a warm, moist temperature” was unhealthy, and the capital should be located somewhere with a “bracing recuperative climate,” meaning somewhere cold!
2. The city is obsessed with hot air balloons
Waking up in the cool early hours of the morning to board a giant floating basket? Say no more!
Canberrans are enthusiastic about hot air balloons, so much so that the city has created an annual festival celebrating these lighter-than-air aircraft. Those lucky enough to board a hot air balloon will get to take in the open skies, stunning views and scenic landscapes of our nation’s capital.
3. It’s the puffer jacket capital
In the cooler months, you’ll be sure to see more than a few people wearing black puffer jackets across the city. These quilted coats, insulated with duck or goose feathers, are so popular that they have become a staple of the Canberra wardrobe.
They’re not just for adventurers or mountain climbers, either. You’ll see everyone from public servants to tradespeople and even kids sporting these fashionable jackets in the cold Canberra winter.
4. Lots of celebs call Canberra home
Did you know a number of world-famous Australians come from Canberra? This includes tennis superstar Nick Kyrgios, model Erin McNaught and comedian Mick Molloy.
The city has also produced a slew of actors, like Teresa Palmer, Mia Wasikowska and Alex O’Loughlin, who played Commander Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O.
5. There may or may not be secret tunnels beneath Parliament House 👀
There have long been whispers about a series of tunnels beneath the city, connecting Old Parliament House with other major government buildings. They are said to have been built as an escape route for the prime minister for use during times of war.
However, this myth was busted in 2018 when it was revealed the only tunnels there are for infrastructure purposes—or is that what they want us to believe? We’ll let you decide!
6. So. Many. Roundabouts.
Driving through Canberra might feel like going in circles—literally! The city has so many roundabouts that it’s sometimes referred to as the roundabout capital of Australia.
It’s estimated there’s about one roundabout for every 1,000 people. While Canberra is sometimes made fun of for its multitude of roundabouts, city planners say they improve safety without the need for traffic lights.
7. It’s Australia’s most educated city
Over 98 per cent of people in the ACT have attained education at or above a year 12 or Certificate III level, making it the best-educated place in Australia.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that Canberra is home to top educational institutions, like the University of Canberra (UC).
UC has been recognised on a global scale for reducing inequalities, is in the top 21 per cent of universities worldwide, and is the number one university in the ACT for full-time employment and teaching quality.
8. Snow sports run in Canberra’s blood
While Australia isn’t often associated with cold weather, it does get cold enough in Canberra for you to get your ski fix.
Corin Forest is a great spot, located just 45 minutes from the city in the Tidbinbilla Ranges. Here, you can learn how to ski or snowboard in group or solo lessons, book full- or half-day passes to the ski area, or hit the fields to enjoy tobogganing, building snowmen or simply frolicking in the snow.